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Journey to the Sun: Junipero Serra's Dream and the Founding of California Hardcover – January 14, 2014
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"A California story becomes an American story...[a] passionate resurrection of the largely forgotten Spanish Franciscan priest who founded the early missions along the California coast...this sympathetic portrait of the well-meaning though flawed priest...sifts carefully through the record...A doggedly researched and fulsomely argued biography." (Kirkus)
“One merely has to look at the place names in modern California to confirm the enduring legacy of the Spanish colonization of the area. To a great extent, the initial success of that effort was due to the labors of the Franciscan priest Junipero Serra. This admiring and admirable biography pays tribute to an essential figure in the early development of California.” (Booklist)
“Journey to the Sun is a highly readable, interpretive account of Junipero Serra's life. Gregory Orfalea brings his vast breadth of knowledge to fleshing out a humanistic narrative of a man whose history is often distorted and confounding. A brilliant biography about a key Hispanic figure in the launching of American history.” (Daniel E. Krieger, Professor of History, Emeritus, California Polyte)
“Orfalea's riveting narrative significantly enriches our grasp of the illusive and controverted Junipero Serra with delightful episodes from his life in Spain and Mexico based on the author's painstaking research never before reported. Arguably, Serra comes alive in this volume as in no other. Great story-telling and fast-moving action together with a stupendous familiarity with the bibliography on Serra make this an original and substantive addition to the field. Scholars and the general public will find this volume enlightening and a good read.” (Allan Figueroa Deck, SJ, Casassa Chair and Professor of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University)
“Orfalea's lively and engaging narrative not only humanizes Junipero Serra, but just as important takes into consideration the cultural perspectives of California Indians as they engaged the Spanish colonial world.” (John R. Johnson, Ph.D., Curator of Anthropology, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History)
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Top Customer Reviews
The North American west course was vital to Spain's growth to build trade with the Philippines. Serra a self-flagellating pious Friar in his mid- 50's was assigned to lead the Franciscan effort to grow the Catholic religion and establish the Church in this new land. In spite of the local Spanish government and military disruptions - Serra was able to establish nine missions, and baptized 6000 people. He also converted the natives from nomads into herders & farmers. The new communities thrive with the new existence, but later many died from European disease with venereal disease being the leading cause of death. The Friars of course acted upon extreme measures to control the spread - locking up young women at night and flogging those in relationships. Serra worked himself to death eventually, but thought iron willed devotion planted the seeds of Cathoism which remains strong to this day in modern California.
The author did a great job developing this time into a very readable format that describes the tough character and will of Serra, and his very strong influence on American history.
Now that I live in WA State, when I heard about this book, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia and quickly put it on my to-read list. I'm glad I did! Author Gregory Orfolea has written a lyrical, sympathetic, and fascinating portrait of a brave and compassionate visionary who lived in exciting times. (The book reminded me several times of another favorite, Willa Cather's DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP.)
Can I say how glad I am that we're past the stage we were in when I was in grad school, where Colonialists = Vicious Murderers Who Did Everything Wrong and Natives = Utopian Residents in a State of Nature? Orfolea did an even-handed job representing the cultural factors at play on each side.
Having only seen Mission San Jose in Fremont, Serra's story made me want to schedule a road trip this summer to check out some of the other Serra-founded ones within reach, not to mention putting Mexico City on the bucket list.
Who knew that he only began his "Alta California" work when he was 56? (Take that, early retirement!)That he suffered for the rest of his life from a spider bite received when he landed in Veracruz, Mexico, upon reaching the New World? That male California Indians went around buck naked, and only added breechcloths after encounters with the Spanish? That explorer DeAnza was the one who noticed and marked "El Palo Alto," which I drove past every stinking day for years?
Lots of goodies in here. If you like CA history, the Spanish Conquest, and sympathetic Catholic history, give this book a try.
But I've cared about Junipero Serra since I was a little kid, visiting relatives near the Santa Barbara Mission. Too many years later, my wife and I have loved to travel. Often, although I'm not very religious, we find ourself walking in Father Serra's footsteps. We've been to his birthplace in Petra, Mallorca, to Baja California churches such as the one in Loreto, and of course to most of the California missions. My most recent birthday was spent on an over-night at Hearst's Hacienda at Camp Hunter Liggett, in the shadow of Serra's third mission. A month ago we enjoyed every station of the Huntington Library's Father Serra exhibit. Of course I purchased Professor Hackel's history ("Junipero Serra") and quickly consumed it.
"Journey to the Sun" explores Junipero Serra's life and what it meant to California. I could feel the Franciscan's pain on the rough and risky trails he chose, and Author Orfalea makes very clear the devotion that drove Serra forward. He paints a vivid picture of what California was like at the very time New England was holding it's American Revolution. One chapter is devoted almost entirely to describing how the native people lived BEFORE the arrival of these Spanish holy men and soldiers.
This is not a "revisionist history". The missionaries meant not to subjugate the Indians, but to save their souls. They were also frail human beings who failed in some important ways. Junipero Serra struggled against unimaginable hurdles and hardships. Professor Orfalea brings it all to life.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a very balanced view of a controversial historic and religious figure.
I read the book in preparation to be docent at a California Mission and it provided a wonderful... Read more
Facinating historical read of the Spanish entry into the New World and their interactions with the native populations.Published 6 months ago by Thelma F. Pickett
The author shows the difficulty that Serra and his fellow Padres encountered with effective yet sometimes excessively flowery language. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Jerry
The author, in a press interview, said that he had begun the book with a negative impression of Serra and was surprised to find that he came to admire and appreciate him and his... Read morePublished 8 months ago by H. M.
WIth the pending canonization of Fra Junipero Serrra in September, it is important to know the breadth and depth of his life, vision and commitment. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jerry Drino
A fascinating insight into a remarkable and controversial missionary.Published 12 months ago by Blades Hooper
“Journey to the Sun”, Gregory Orfalea’s biography of Junipero Serra, is a deeply researched, interpretative story of one of early California’s most important historical figures. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Jeff B.
A magnum opus for Gregory Orfalea! The rich detail allowed me, a native Californian, to understand the early history of our State with greater clarity and appreciation. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Brian Porter